BBQ Time – The Lotus Grill

As summer hits you will see loads of us boaters getting the BBQ’s out and enjoying some burnt meat washed down with a nice cold beer or glass of wine. Some of us use disposables whilst others use messy traditional ones, we use neither anymore.

For the past couple of years we have been using a Lotus Grill which is a much better and healthier solution. If you want the nasty charcoal all over you meat you can still do that or if you want something a little more cooked through you can do that too. How? The Lotus Grill is fan assisted and uses just a tiny amount of beech charcoal. Whack the fan up full blast and you can have that fire and fury style BBQ or turn the fan down a bit and you can actually cook your meat through properly. As with any BBQ the clean up afterwards can be a real pain as the meat welds itself to the grill. Well, we have found a solution to that too (well a partial one) by using Teflon sheets.

Take a look at the video below and all will be revealed and maybe you’ll be a convert like us aboard Hannah the Narrowboat.

A Big Change

Anyone who follows our blog will know we have neglected it for a few months but we are now back with a vengeance and this post is going to be a long one to make up for it! It’s been a busy time for us as we have been downsizing as our daughter and her boyfriend are moving back into the family home in Luton and we have been chucked out! Well, OK it’s not quite as harsh as that but our daughter is due a baby boy in August 2018 and the house that they were renting was not really appropriate for a child, too small an no private garden. It seemed to make sense that they move back into the house and we spend more of our time aboard Hannah the Narrowboat to give them space, it’s something we have wanted to do for a long time so this seemed the perfect solution.

For those that have made the same move as us they will know exactly what we went through, it’s amazing how much junk you collect over 20 odd years and sorting it was a major operation! What we have also learned is that you can actually get a lot more aboard a Narrowboat than one may think, luckily we have a lot of storage places aboard Hannah. The bed is about 4ft off the floor so we have drawers under half of it and the other half is storage. Similar with our seating, loads of space underneath so although we had to have a major cull and think carefully about what we took aboard the boat it was not quite as painful as I thought.

Of course many people thought we were absolutely mad to make this major change to our lives but you know what? We are not the mad ones! Take a look at the little video snapshot below and decide for yourselves.

So, what have been the pitfalls? To be honest there has not been anything that we have not been able to sort out one way or another. I suppose from my side of things I had to sort out a way of working comfortably aboard the boat as I can’t give up my day job as a graphic designer and I also needed to be able to continue writing my music. The solution was to get rid of the TV and buy a 4K 28” computer monitor with 2 HDMI ports for the TV tuner box and Apple TV along with a Display Port for my MacBook Pro. Not the cheapest thing to do but now I have an awesome setup where I can switch between all those devices! I also custom built some drawers with a slide out on top for my keyboard, trackpad, mouse and Wacom tablet. It works extremely well but there are some modifications I want to make to it.

Data, loads of it

The one thing I massively underestimated was the amount of data we would get through. My business phone contract on O2 has 60GB of tetherable data so I figured that should be just about enough for work stuff, the files I send and receive are massive so one of those nonsense unlimited plans would not work for me as they throttle the speed back after a few GB and most do not allow unlimited tethering anyway. Yes, there may be a few out there that have old legacy unlimited plans but they are not available now and most carry a fair usage policy anyway and you get throttled back.

60GB was not enough by a long way! That did indeed get eaten up by work stuff but that meant I could not do much else and certainly could not watch Netflix etc over mobile broadband! I decided to get a Three MiFi box that gives 20GB and free streaming of Netflix, TV Player and a couple of other little bits. I thought that may be enough but again was wrong. If I wanted to continue doing YouTube videos, blogs and other social media stuff I would need much more! Then I discovered Vodafone Passes. What a brilliant service (never thought I would say that about Vodafone). I went for the all in one pass that lets me stream all the major movie sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube and you can even upload to YouTube without eating data so that’s awesome. Then we have all the social networks included like Facebook, Twitter etc also the music streaming from Apple Music, Spotify etc and much more, it’s well worth checking out and has certainly solved my issues. I pay £45 a month (rolling monthly contract) for 50GB (£30) and the All In One Pass (£15). Yes my internet/phone bill is high but it’s not really any higher than what I was paying for Virgin at the house (I take my phone out of the equation as that’s business).

Ice baby ice

Ice, I really missed ice. We only had a fridge aboard Hannah the Narrowboat without an icebox as it had to fit under the work surface. We both thought that this would be OK as there was enough room in it for a few beers and some food. It was not long before we started to get a little fed up having to go shopping every few days and Lee decided enough was enough and we had to get a freezer. We initially thought that a tabletop freezer may clutter us up and feel a little claustrophobic alongside the toaster and microwave but once we had a little reshuffle it worked out OK and now I have ice!

Freezer aboard Narrowboat

There was one other major issue we had and that was transport. We have only had one car in our household for a number of years as I worked from home and Lee was the only one commuting to work. That was fine when living in Luton as we had shops around the corner if I needed anything and the town was just a bus ride away if I felt the need (I did’nt as it’s a sh*thole). However, being stranded on a boat with no means to get about when Lee is at work was not going to work for me. I also needed the freedom to pop back to Luton whenever I wanted to see my mum or check on the house etc so I really needed my own set of wheels. I only wanted something small but me being me did not want something without a bit of oomph so I get myself a lovely little Mini Cooper S which is basically a road legal go kart!

Mini Cooper S

Did we make the right decision?

I think it’s a resounding yes – at this point anyway! We have been so lucky with the weather and could not have chosen a better time to do it, don’t get me wrong, I also love winter all cosy with a roaring fire too but it’s not the best time to actually move all your stuff aboard a boat!

OK, so poor old Lee has to commute from Northampton to Luton which is one downfall. We also have less clothes although it does not bother me! I can’t actually think of any other negatives.

In reality I can’t say we have actually moved aboard Hannah the Narrowboat permanently as we have only planned for the foreseeable future, as with all of us I suppose, but we will certainly be spending most of the summer and autumn aboard the boat and then we will see what happens, maybe we will go out continuously cruising if that opportunity arises, although I do love our mooring at Gayton so probably would not give that up.

What’s changed

So much has changed, for one I am far less stressed working from my boat, I go out for more strolls in the countryside as it’s right outside my boat, my health seems to be improving through lack of home delivery takeaways and more fresh food. My blood sugar levels are lower probably for the same reasons as stated above too! I probably drink too much beer but that’s always been the way when the weather is nice. We are more sociable, in Luton we hardly spoke to any strangers as they look at you as if you are mad or don’t understand English (I kid you not). Up here we talk to everyone and anyone and it’s lovely. I have a suntan, a good one. I never have to mow the lawn or do the weeding again! Life is good.

Here are a few pictures and video we have shot since we have been here.

Hannah Supporting England

Stoke Bruerne

Irchester Country Park

Stoke Bruerne Locks

A pleasant surprise

Evening Sky over Gayton Marina

OK, I know it’s been a while and we even had a comment shouted from a passing boat that we had not done a blog post for ages. If I’m brutally honest we have just had so many other things going on that I kind of forgot about the blog so hopefully from here on we will try and be a bit more consistent as we do spend half our lives aboard Hannah the Narrowboat.

As we lost a couple of months due to Lee’s unforeseen illness we did not really get the usual summer break for a grand adventure so we thought it would just be nice for her to book a bit of time off work and spend the first part of October solely aboard the boat. Of course we still need to keep the pennies rolling in but I am fortunate enough to be able to work almost anywhere I can get an internet connection.

As well as just getting away from it all for a bit of relaxation we also have a rather long list of jobs that need doing aboard Hannah including replacing the hatch and the door frame as both were pretty rotten so this was not going to be all about sitting around sipping wine whilst watching the world go by unfortunately!

When we arrived at Gayton Marina we were pleasantly surprised to see five familiar faces approaching us, our friends Martin, Sarah and their 3 greyhounds Banksy, Lucy and Abby. They have been having a bit of trouble getting their washing machine to work properly with their inverter so an engineer had been out to have a look and decided it was poorly and needed a new switch which he would have to order. Martin and Co. are continuous cruisers and had come down this was a couple of weeks ago and as they had to wait for parts they decided to moor up in the marina until they get things sorted.

The Green Room

As is the norm for a Saturday night when we arrive it’s Chinese and pink wine night and tonight’s mood lighting is green – we love our colour changing lights in the lounge! We like a lazy night aboard Hannah in front of the TV after we arrive and it was not too long before we settled down for the night with our bellies full and our heads slightly woozy.

I awoke to the sound of my phones alarm as I had an early start – F1 was on the TV and for once I was glad I made the effort as it was perhaps the best race of the season so far. I do like my F1 but if I am honest the last two or three seasons have been pretty rubbish. Once we had eaten breakfast our friends wandered over and we all sat around outside drinking tea and putting the world to rights for a few hours which was nice. Lee and Sarah then went off to do a food shop whilst I got on with a few little jobs.

Lee catching up on Facebook

We all spent a nice evening aboard The Pride of Nuffield (Martin and Sarah’s boat) drinking a few beverages and having a good old chin wag, happy days. All the fresh air got to us and we were in bed by 10.30pm which is very early for me!

Excited and Nervous

Hannah the Narrowboat

At present we probably spend half our time aboard Hannah the Narrowboat and half our time in a brick box – I prefer the boat! I don’t really like our house anymore, well actually I don’t like where that house is located – Luton. So with that in mind it is getting close to the time where we want to move so one way or another we are going to have to clear out 24 years of junk we have collected that is sitting on the loft, garage and shed. We do not own our brick box and have no desire to own a brick box at all so after a proper chat with the better half we have come to a decision and it’s really quite exciting! In March 2018 we plan to be aboard Hannah the Narrowboat full time which will save us a fortune on rent which can then be ploughed into renovating the boat. We’ll try it for a year or so and if we decide we really do want another brick box then we can rent one nearer the boat in Northamptonshire.

Ducks on the Canal

So here we are then, a year to sort ourselves out, sell all the stuff we have not used or even seen for years and plan our new life aboard the boat. It’s all very exciting but also a tad nerve racking as there is so much to sort out. Some people think we are mad but I think of it like this, when I am sitting in the brick box watching a large screen TV from a distance of 10ft it is not different to watching a 24″ TV from 3ft – I am still doing the same thing! We will of course need to think carefully about storage solutions and that type of thing but in essence we don’t need 45 t-shirts, 8 pairs of jeans and 6 pairs of shoes!

I kind of think we are half way there already as the boat has many of the gadgets I need already as I have already installed them all. We have solar, we have 240v, we have a fridge, we have a microwave, we have bluetooth audio throughout and  much more – all we really need is some way of washing our clothes and some way of storing my studio gear (which I will cut down the the bare essentials). Technology has already allowed me to have a full room of recording equipment shrunk down into a Macbook Pro!

So, that’s where we are for better or for worse we are going to dip our toes into living aboard our beloved narrowboat full time – wish us luck, we may need it!

A walk along the towpath around Gayton

Sunset at Gayton

We are so lucky to have such an amazing back garden, yes that is how we see this beautiful part of the Grand Union Canal around Gayton in Northamptonshire.

Although the day started off quite misty we watched it lift from the warmth of Hannah the Narrowboat before deciding to get out there and enjoy the countryside on our doorstep. This video gives a good idea of what life is like when you abandon the confines of a brick box and get out there and enjoy life. The music in the background is by yours truly, a bit of a rest bite from the usual pop rock I write with Sanity Bypass!! Hope you feel completely relaxed after watching.

A Winters Walk around Stoke Bruerne

Stoke Bruene in Northamptonshire

We awoke up to a lovely warm and cosy boat this morning whilst outside the marina and canal was frozen over. We decided there would be no going out ice breaking on the canal so instead took the short drive down to Stoke Bruerne to blow off the cobwebs from our chinese and pink wine night the evening before!

Stoke Bruerne is a lovely place whatever time of the year it is and there is always a bit of a buzz about the place with people meandering around out for a walk or just to take in the idyllic sight of working boats and private narrowboats alike. We decided we would take a walk up the ‘Woodland Walk’ which takes you up and over the Blisworth Tunnel.

Above Blisworth Tunnel

Once we decided that we had burnt off enough calories it was time to go and put them back on again at Tea Junction, a narrowboat run by Tracy and Ray. If you get the chance then pay them a visit, they often post up on Facebook where they are going to be and they make a great selection of really naughty but nice cakes! After a bit of a chat we said our goodbyes and headed off up the towpath to the car and then back to Hannah the Narrowboat at Gayton Marina. Going to be freezing again overnight but we will be warm as toast again! We may have to pop to the Royal Oak in Blisworth for a pint of Timothy Taylors first though!

Tea Junction

Rewind – Back to Base

Heading back to base

Unfortunately we decided that we should head back to our home mooring as the temperatures were forecast to plummet for the next few days meaning a high probability of the canal freezing over again and the good lady of the boat has to go and cut some hair on Friday! We have had a lovely time with Martin and Sarah from Narrowboat Pride of Nuffield who are heading off to to the Llangollen Canal but on the bright side we had a lovely little cruise back to the marina at Gayton.

Once back in our berth we did not want to just sit on the boat so decided to drive to Sixfields in Northampton to have a walk along the upper Northampton Arm of the GU and River Nene at Upton Park, walking off tonights rum!

Rewind – New Years Eve

Cosy Boat New Years Eve

Well here we are, the very last day of 2016 looking forward to another wonderful year in 2017 messing around on our narrowboat! As the ice had finally melted we thought it a good idea to have a little potter along the Grand Union Canal up to Heyford Fields to turn around, a round trip of about 2hrs. We wanted to end up back with our friends on narrowboat ‘Pride of Nuffield’ moored stern to stern to make the food and drink transfers easier for tonights festivities. Although it was a bit chilly it was a nice little cruise and no matter how many times we chug along this stretch there is always something new to see on the cut.

After our turn at Heyford Fields I needed to pop inside for a wee and to stoke the fire so the good lady took over the controls. When I returned around five minutes later I was greeted by excess exhaust smoke and a lack of power! I was in a quandary here as I did not really want to pull over just in case we could not get her started again so elected to plod along at tick-over all the way back. In fairness the smoke did subside but the power was lacking, I feared the worst and that our slightly sticky valve had stuck once and for all, or on the brighter side it did pass through my mind that it could be the exhaust manifold. We managed to get back to our mooring spot easily enough and Martin from Pride of Nuffield shouted over to us that we should check the weed hatch. Once we were tied up I put her into neutral and gave her some revs and she seemed absolutely fine with no load on so Martin could well be right. He is such a nice chap he was down our weed hatch like a Jack Russell down a rabbit hole and we did indeed have rags around the prop although it would seem not enough to have had the effect it had. Perhaps when we stopped some fell of naturally as when I put her back in gear under load she seemed fine! Let’s hope that is the end of that little drama!

After a little siesta in preparation for this evenings shenanigans the good lady started cooking the food and by 7.30pm we were aboard Pride of Nuffield enjoying a few drinks, laughs and too much food! As the clock struck midnight we toasted the new year in with some Babycham (a bizarre tradition now between us and Pride of Nuffield!) and were treated to some fireworks coming from Gayton Village.

Have a happy, peaceful and enjoyable 2017 everyone!

Rewind – Ice Breakers in The Grand Union Canal

Ice in the marina

We were pretty determined to spend New Years Eve out on the canal rather than in our marina berth as our friends aboard narrowboat ‘Pride of Nuffield’ had come down this way for the Christmas period. Temperatures overnight had plummeted and the canal was frozen and worse still was that the marina itself had also frozen too and it seemed a lot thicker than the canal was. By lunchtime it was not looking any better so we made the call to give it a go and tentatively nudge forward out of our berth to see just how bad it was. Once I had started going forward I thought ‘I’m not stopping now, lets just go for it!’. Turning was the hardest part but with a bit of forward and backing we broke enough ice to get out and onto the mainline canal.
We only traveled around 30 or so minutes north from Gayton towards Bugbrooke but we had already talked about a spot that would be good which gives plenty of sunshine for our solar panels (if it’s actually sunny), a TV signal and internet – what more do we need apart from beer and wine, and yes we have plenty of that on-board too!